Do your mixes usually end up with lots of plug-ins? My sessions did! I used to use a variety of plug-ins to shape the tone of my tracks until I started getting back into using a dedicated "front end" outboard channel strip in my tracking workflow.
I get around 80%-90% of the sound I want from my tracks at source using my Tegeler Audio VTRC channel strip. Before the VTRC I exclusively used plug-ins to shape the tone of my tracks, over the years this totally "In The Box" approach got very tedious.
You can see in my video demonstration below just how easy it is to get "a sound" dialled in for a track before recording which saves me from having to mouse around for hours with plug-ins.
The VTRC by Tegeler Audio, although I personally believe is worth every penny, isn't the cheapest channel strip around. If you cannot afford to invest upwards of $2,000 in a new outboard channel strip for your studio then consider some of the low-cost solutions in the article for the budget minded studio engineer.
Outboard recording channel strips make it easy for music producers and sound engineers to dial in a "tone" or specific "sound" for instrument and vocal tracks at source before recording to tape. Channel strips enable us to get production ready sounds right from the start. Many channel strips feature tubes, high pass filters, EQ, saturation and compression. A blend of all those stages can be "committed" to the recording of instruments and vocals which is why many producers, who swear by channel strips, find that their mixes sound better and more complete much earlier on in production.
If you are in the market for your first "front end" channel strip then check out some of these great products below starting with:
Presonus Studio Channel - $299
This single channel unit features mic & line inputs, tube preamplification, VCA-based compressor and three-band EQ.. What else could you possibly need from a channel strip, let alone a low-cost one?
This also features a button that feeds to EQ in the compressor and vice versa, the VU meter can display the compressor gain reduction and there's an auto button that sorts out the compressor attack and release times. For $299, you have got to agree, Presonus Studio Channel is outstanding value for money.
Watch PreSonus's guided tour of the Studio Channel
Visit the Presonus website for more information
ART Pro Channel II - $299
Out of the five channel strips featured in this list, ART Pro Channel II wins in terms of the number of buttons to push and dials to twist:
- Input Gain
- Low Cut
- Preamp Output
- Tube Voltage (high or low)
- Compressor Threshold
- Compressor Attack
- Compressor Release
- Compressor Ratio
- Compressor Output
- EQ Low Gain
- EQ Low Mid Gain
- EQ Low Mid Frequency
- EQ High Mid Gain
- EQ High Mid Frequency
- EQ High Gain
- Master output
Like the PreSonus Studio Channel, ART's Pro Channel also costs $299 which is outstanding value for money. If you are in the market for your first studio channel strip then surely you should consider one of these.
Visit the ART website for more information
Focusrite ISA TWO - $799
Focusrite ISA TWO - $799
The Focusrite ISA TWO isn't really a channel strip, it's more a mic pre, however, it does feature two channels both with great sounding high pass filters which kind of ticks the channel strip entry requirements for me. The ISA TWO and single channel ISA ONE both share their DNA with Focusrite's flagship channel strip ISA430 which costs $2,000 which is well and truly out of our $1,000 budget. At least we get some of the thrills the ISA430 has to offer on the cheap.
Visit the Focusrite website for more information
dbx 676 - $849
dbx are known for producing great sounding studio outboard gear. This, the 676 costing $849 is no exception. It features a compressor that shares its DNA with the dbx 162SL, 3 band semi-parametric EQ, VU meter, instrument & XLR input and so much more.
Watch the excelent dbx 676 guided tour video below learn how this device works and to see it up-close and personal...
Visit the dbx website for more information
SPL Track ONE MkII - $999 - $1,199
The SPL single channel Track ONE MkII is geared more towards vocal production as it features a de-Esser, high pass rumble switch, compressor/limiter and EQ. Unlike the other products that are featured in this list, the Track One MkII isn't tube based which may be to many people's preference.
Visit the SPL website for more information
Do you use any of these channel strips in your studios?